Throughout the world, improved public health and medical treatments have contributed to a dramatic increase in human longevity, making our aging population one of the prominant demographic trends of the 21st century. And as the population ages physically, our brains undergo a natural process of aging. What changes can we expect to occur as our brains age and what steps can we take to prevent normal aging from transitioning into disease states, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s?
The course will begin with an overview of some fundamental topics in neurobiology, such as neuronal signaling and neuroanatomy, so that we may better understand the clinical, behavioral, and molecular aspects of brain development.
We’ll then discuss approaches to promoting brain health—physical exercise, mental exercise, nutrition—and how these are grounded in the neurobiological principles critical to cognitive function. Along the way, we will explore real human brains and test our skills with activities as a means to gain practical knowledge about how to maintain our brains as this vital organ ages.
Key to the course will be learning how to critically assess neuroscience data. Due to its prominence, the burgeoning field of neuroscience has become the topic of many of today’s news stories, many of which misinterpret or exaggerate key research findings. By surveying the current research on age-related brain changes, participants will develop the tools to evaluate scientific data analytically, which in turn, will allow them to make informed decisions, both personally and socially.
Throughout the course, lectures, discussions, readings, illustrated presentations, and video screenings, will deepen your knowledge of how the brain functions, and give you an educated glimpse of the exciting research that is being done to improve our cognitive function and quality of life as we age.
Julia Gamache, BA, Magna Cum Laude, biology and cognitive science, Carleton College, is a PhD candidate in the University of Minnesota’s Graduate Program in Neuroscience. A recipient of a 3M Science and Technology Fellowship, Gamache’s research focuses on how toxic proteins kill brain cells in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Frontotemporal Dementia.
Offered in cooperation with the Department of Neuroscience in recognition of Brain Awareness Week (BAW). A project of the Dana Foundation, BAW (March 12−18) is the global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research. In 2017, BAW partners hosted 800 events in 43 countries and 40 states.
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